The Most Important Milestone

This week’s prompt for Reena’s Exploration Challenge is “Milestones”.

I am a big calendar girl. As such, I always remember important dates. As a teen, I used to commemorate an important event in my life at least once a month. For example, September 24, 1999 was the day I realized I hated mainstream secondary school and I remembered it for several years afterwards. Similarly, on November 2, 2001, I was in crisis. Same on November 2, 2007 and I was sure the reason (or part of it) was the day (Friday) and date. I still to this day commemorate the day I landed in the psychiatric hospital, even though it’ll have been fourteen years this year.

I realize now that all of these are negative. Don’t I have positive anniversaries? Sure I do. September 19 is the day my husband and I first met (in 2007) and the day we got married (in 2011). On May 7, 2008, we started officially dating and on June 4, 2010, my husband proposed to me.

Then there is the day I was approved for long-term care funding, also June 4 but in 2019. Finally, the day I moved into the care facility, September 23. I only now realize that there were twenty years minus a day between the important event that defined my teens and the important event that I hope will define at least most of the rest of my life.

Okay, that makes me feel ashamed. After all, shouldn’t the most important milestone of my life be the day I met my husband or the day we got married? It probably should be, but right now, honestly, it isn’t. Sorry, hubby.

Good Enough

Today’s optional prompt word for #LifeThisWeek is “Good”. Denyse takes on a cynical approach to the word, which reminds me of the many degrees of being called “good” I experienced.

In my elementary school years, my parents were in a constant fight with the schools for the blind I attended about my educational needs and my potential. According to the school, I was a good enough student. That’s the literal translation of the words that appeared on my report card often. Sometimes, when I was better than average, just “Good” appeared.
My parents thought I ought to get some more recognition. They thought I was excellent, sublime, a genius.

My schools thought I should be going to their secondary school program, which at the highest level catered to average students. My parents believed I could do far better.

I doubt, to be very honest, that my teachers truly didn’t see that academically, I was above-average. At least some of my teachers must have seen this. However, socially and emotionally, I was significantly behind. This was probably the real reason my schools recommended I continue in special education. My parents disagreed. They felt that I would be overprotected and underestimated in special ed. They might’ve been right. We’ll never know, since my parents took me from educational psychologist to educational psychologist until they had the recommendation for mainstream high level secondary education in their hands.

What I do know, is that I ended up being overestimated and underprotected. My parents would love to deny this and blame the staff in independence training for essentially setting me up for long-term care. Agree to disagree. Then again, we’ll never know, because I didn’t go into independent living and on to university right out of high school.

Sometimes, I wish I was just the average, good enough student that some of my teachers saw me as. Then at least I wouldn’t have to face the enormous challenge of both a high IQ and an emotional level comparable in many ways to an 18-month-old child. Then, I might not be writing blog posts in English, but I also might not need 24-hour care.

Then again, I enjoy writing blog posts. I like my care facility. Life is good enough for me.

An F in Phys Ed

One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is whether you played sports as a child and if so, to share a memorable game. I never played sports outside of school. That is, I attended one gymnastics class with my sister and a friend of hers at around age eight. I didn’t enjoy it one bit, despite normally liking gymnastics in physical education classes.

I was, to put it plainly, horrible at sports. Any sports. While gymnastics was my favorite part of physical education, it was more because I hated team sports and athletics even more.

At the school for the blind I attended for grades four to six, I was always picked last. Not just because of my lack of athletic capacity, but also because I was the only girl in my class. I don’t blame my classmates though.

When I attended mainstream high school, my phys ed teacher was also my tutor. He was great at accommodating me up to a point. For example, he let me run with a buddy. Of course, I was the slowest runner of the entire class. Looking back, I like to blame my mild cerebral palsy, but I still struggle to figure out what is due to that and what is simply due to my being fat. Not that I was fat at the time, but I wasn’t skinny either.

In my second year in this school, I hadn’t had any failing grades until sometime in February. My classmates complained that I got it easier than them, because for example I’d get extra time on tests. Whether this motivated my phys ed teacher or not, I’ll never know. We had to do gymnastics, a particular swing on the rings. I couldn’t really see what everyone else did, but I tried my best. And failed. My teacher explained to my father that I might’ve done the best I could, but he couldn’t possibly justify giving me a passing grade.

Like I said, he was my tutor. He almost took pride in being the first to give me a failing grade that year. Except that he wasn’t. That same week, I’d gotten an F in Greek too. That one was definitely justified, as at the time I didn’t face any barriers to learning basic Greek that my classmates didn’t.

From the next year on, I started going to a gym instead of following regular PE classes. I, after all, would never be able to attain the level of physical ability required for higher secondary school sports. I continued to attend the gym regularly throughout high school and for the first several years after.

Mama’s Losin’ It

When I Was Fifteen

One of Mama Kat’s writer’s workshop prompts for this week is to explain how a parent or sibling would’ve described you at the age of fifteen. What an interesting thing that Mama Kat should mention age fifteen!

I turned fifteen in June of 2001. By August, looking back, I was close to insane mentally. This was the summer when I first realized I had alters inside of me, although I didn’t know what they were at the time. I just heard some type of voices that were and at the same time weren’t mine.

Neither my parents nor my younger sister knew this at the time. Still, they did realize something was up, if for no other reason, then because I didn’t care about school. I had always been a pretty studious kind of child, but this changed by November or December of 2001.

In addition, I was a rather angry, moody child. I had suffered from depression on and off since age seven or so, but it was particularly bad at age fifteen. I even made suicide plans several times during that year. My parents, being the type to dismiss mental health issues, felt I was just attention-seeking, of course.

My life turned around in a sort of positive way a few weeks before my sixteenth birthday, although no-one saw either the change or how positive it was at that point. On June 16, 2002, my father called me autistic as an insult. This led me to search the Internet for autism and to discover I may be on the spectrum myself. Although it’d take nearly five more years before I was diagnosed, in part because my parents and teachers didn’t believe me, I see this as a pivotal point in my life.

The day after this, June 17, I finally disclosed to my teacher what had been bothering me over the past year. I sugarcoated it a little, not mentioning the voices or suicidality or autism for that matter. I did tell him I was struggling with being blind in a mainstream school and that I realized I had been less than good of a student lately.

My father, at the time, worked at my school. My teacher told him that I had disclosed something to him, but he refused to tell my father what it was. This led to a really traumatic experience, because my parents demanded to know too and they weren’t kind about it at all. I am pretty sure they just tried to gain fuel for their idea that I was one giant attention-seeker.

Many years later, my parents used many of my struggles at age fifteen to “prove” this very point. I can see their perspective, sort of. Thankfully though, my current professionals don’t go along with it.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Millennium: Growing Up Blind in 2000 #Blogtober20

I’m a bit late to publish my #Blogtober20 post today. Well, not as late as yesterday, but then I already had a post up in the afternoon. Today’s prompt is “Millennium”.

Let’s see… we’re now 20 years into the new millennium, which I realize isn’t even the “new” millennium to some adults right now, as they were born in 2000 or later. I always find it surprising that there are people who will be legally old enough to vote in next year’s national election who weren’t even born when politician Pim Fortuyn was murdered on May 6, 2002. Yeah, I’m getting old!

In 2000, I turned fourteen. I was in my first year at a mainstream grammar school. I had already decided I hated it, but my parents and teachers had decided that, if I failed, I’d fail within the first three months and those were up. Woohoo, my mainstream education was a success! Okay, it was, since I did graduate with pretty good grades in 2005, but yeah.

In January of 2000, I suffered a bad case of the flu. I rarely got the flu back then and still get it only once every five years or so, so I remember. In fact, I’m not 100% sure of this but I think it was my only time being off school sick in my entire grammar school career.

In February, my outreach teacher for the visually impaired came to talk to my classmates. They had already decided they didn’t like me one bit. In fact, when the teacher asked casually what having me, a blind student, in their class evoked in them, they didn’t think of a single positive. They started saying that I was being favored by the teachers. They also resented the need to help me get around. This instilled in me the feeling that I had to make up for my blindness in some way by being extra, well, anything.

I had read a book called Het instituut (which translates to The Institution) by blind comedian Vincent Bijlo in 1998. This book is about a boy who goes to a boarding school for the blind and his teachers constantly instill in him the idea that the “sighted school” is really hard and that he’ll need to compensate for his sight loss. For all I knew, my parents and teachers at the grammar school agreed: I was an inherent burden due to my blindness unless I showed my classmates I was more independent, nicer, more hard-working and in any way better than them. Then when I tried to work hard and got good grades, my classmates decided I must be favored by the teachers.

My idea about myself as an inherent burden on the world around me due to my blindness didn’t change till I went to an international computer camp for the blind in 2002 and discovered the English-language Internet in that same summer. It never completely disappeared though.

Later in the year 2000, my classmates started openly bullying me. Again, my parents and teachers blamed me. I was too dependent, too unsociable, too much of a burden in general. I had ruined the only friendship I had developed (which in hindsight was based on pity mostly) by getting my “friends” an only average grade in a music performance in October. Though these girls didn’t actively bully me, they mostly ignored me.

I realize, looking back, that the attitude towards people with disabilities was generally very hostile back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when I was growing up. I mean, I bullied a girl with a visual and intellectual impairment on the special needs bus to the school for the blind in the late 1990s. Though my parents disapproved of it, both they and my teachers didn’t do much to stop me. When this girl was dying of a brain tumor, my parents even openly criticized her religious parents’ hope that the girl would miraculously survive.

I can only hope that, with more children with significant disabilities being mainstreamed nowadays, that attitudes have changed.

#Blogtober20

Advice to Today’s High Schoolers

This week, one of the prompts over at Mama’s Losin’ It is to share advice you’d give today’s high school students. I cringed a lot at Mama Kat’s own post, as it was based on the idea that all high schoolers have parents who have their best interest in mind. I mean, I lied regularly as a teen. Though I wouldn’t advocate for that, it was all I could, because honesty led to harsh punishment.

I am not sure how much of my experiences was shaped by my neurotype, ie. being autistic. I mean, the main reasons I was ridiculed and punished harshly were because I was “weird”. However, there are lots of high schoolers who for whatever reason cannot follow Mama Kat’s advice, either because of their own situation or because of their parents.

For this reason, the main piece of advice I would give any high schooler is that it’s okay to be themselves no matter what. Whether your parents accept you, is something about them, not you. Do stand up for yourself if they are abusive or hurtful. You may be a minor, but that doesn’t mean your parents are all-powerful and all-knowing (especially that).

Also, seek out adult role models other than your parents. I felt helped a lot by being in contact with disabled adults. Even for neurotypical, non-disabled teens, it is useful to have people that inspire them other than their own parents.

Use social media, but of course use it wisely. There are spaces on social media for people just like you. Of course, I know most parents supervise their teens’ social media use and I think there is some good reason for that. Mine thankfully didn’t, but then again I was pretty careful not to engage in unsafe behavior online.

I do agree with Mama Kat that honesty is part of a good family dynamic. It has to come both ways though. As teens, it will help you to not give your parents reasons to snoop on your private life by being open about it. If your parents aren’t safe, seek out another adult to talk to.

What advice would you give current high school students?

Mama’s Losin’ It

I Am My Top Priority?

Today I decided to buy The Goddess Journaling Workbook by Beatrix Minevera Linden. This book of journaling prompts focuses on the Greek goddesses to explore yourself and keep a manifestation mindset all through the year. The first goddess to be explored is Persephone. She was led into the Underworld by Hades and ate a pomegranate there. This fruit was the fruit of the dead, so Hades could really keep her in the Underworld forever. Eventually, Hades and Persephone’s mother Demeter reached an agreement to keep Persephone in the Underworld half the year and in the upper realm the rest of the year.

Persephone’s story is used as a metaphor for our darker side and our mistakes that follow us throughout life (like Persephone’s eating the pomegranate did). The first prompt in Persephone’s chapter is titled “You are your top priority”. It asks us when we didn’t put ourself first.

Well, my first thought is: am I really supposed to be my own top priority? My husband often says he values me more than himself. I tend to reply that I value him more than myself too. Whenever I doubt that I value him more than myself, I feel guilty. But really, I currently choose myself over my husband whether that’s supposed to be so or not.

It wasn’t always this way. Until I made the decision to try to go into supported housing on September 20, 2018, I always put others first. Not just my husband, but literally almost everyone seemed more important than me.

I was diagnosed with dependent personality disorder in 2016. Though the diagnosis was made for all the wrong reasons, there is some truth to it. I remember my psychologist used my lack of resistance to her opinions against me and she was right. Until I decided to ask for a second opinion in November of that year, I never openly fought her list of ongoing misdiagnoses and mistreatments. It’s interesting that, later, she said I am very assertive but maintained that I have DPD nonetheless.

What also comes to mind, is that as a child and even as a teen, I always did what others wanted and put them before myself. I remember at one point using the Persephone myth to describe how I felt about my relationship to my classmates in high school. (Remember, I went to grammar school, so the classics were taught a lot.)

Still, I was thought of as self-centered or selfish even by my parents. This is probably because, in a materialistic way, I did put myself first. I was often jealous when my sister got gifts. Indeed, she did get more than I did, but I got more attention, albeit most negative.

Now I do generally put myyself first. I decided to go into long-term care despite no doubt disappointing my husband a bit. I mean, of course I struggled greatly living semi-independently, but it wasn’t like I was dying. Or maybe sometimes it was, because I did take two overdoses that could’ve killed me. Then again, wasn’t I selfish for doing this?

Linking up with Life This Week.

A Twelfth Grade Memory

Last Monday, I already shared some memories from the year 2003. Today, one of the prompts over at Mama’s Losin’ It’s Writer’s Workshop is to share a twelfth grade memory.

My senior year of high school was the year I was supposedly planning on going to university after graduation. I knew this was going to be hard, but my aversion to going to college straight out of high school, didn’t really form. Besides, I had no idea what else I was going to do. I remember one day, August 31, 2004, one of the first few days of the school year. I had already come out as dissociative (multiple personality) on my blog in March, but had only been aware of three alters at the time. That day, Carol, who was up to that moment my assertive helper part, gave up and a new one, who called herself Clarissa, emerged.

I wasn’t aware at the time that what I was experiencing was an actual mental health diagnosis, mind you. A friend of mine had told me about dissociative identity disorder after I first came out in March of 2004, but I was still in denial. Part of the reason is that one criterion of DID is amnesia, which we rarely experience.

In March of 2005, my high school tutor had arranged for me to see a blindness rehabilitation center psychologist. The high school tutor, I must say, read my blog, so he knew about the parts, including Clarissa. He had told the psychologist, who obviously immediately thought of DID. She started to ask me all sorts of questions, all of which I either circumvened or answered negatively to. I knew, after all, that, if I’d gotten the psychologist to think I had DID, I wouldn’t be accepted into the rehabilitation program.

In hindsight, of course, I wish I would’ve been more honest. I knew I didn’t have amnesia or time loss, but I did have most other symptoms of DID, some of which I hadn’t become aware of being abnormal. It took over five more years before I was diagnosed with DID.

In the end, I was accepted into the rehabilitation program. I started on August 22, 2005.

Full disclosure: after being diagnosed with DID in 2010, I lost my diagnosis again in 2013. I am pretty sure I don’t have full-blown DID, but probably do have some dissociative disorder.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Reflecting on My Life: 2003

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I was looking for some link-up parties to join in and came across the Life This Week linky. In this week’s edition, host Denyse shares her memories of the year 2003. As this is my first time participating in the linky, I should really start my story from the beginning on, but for some reason, I can’t.

I may have shared this before, but in secondary school, I always had this superstition that life ran in circles. There’d be a year of struggle and crisis, a year of renewed hope and finally a year of disillusionment, after which I’d spiral back to struggle and crisis. The year 2003 was a year of disillusionment.

In 2003, I was sixteen. I turned seventeen at the end of June. I was in the tenth grade for the first half of the year and in the eleventh for the last half.

In the summer of 2002, I had barely moved up a year. My grades weren’t that good and I only moved up because I worked very hard the last few weeks of the year. I had been struggling with feeling like an outcast due to my blindness the entire 2001/2002 school year. That was to change by late 2002, or so I believed. My high school tutor promised me he’d help me feel better.

What he did was come up with a social skills assessment for blind students and have the teachers fill it out. That was no good for my self-esteem, as I showed considerable weaknesses. No-one knew at the time that I was also autistic, even though I suspected it.

The year 2003 was the year I started to learn about myself from a possibly autistic point of view. Even though I had started suspecting I was on the spectrum in mid-2002, I didn’t feel comfortable joining online support groups for it till 2003.

This was also the year I expanded my horizons where it came to using the Internet in general. I had gotten an Internet connection in May of 2002. By April of 2003, I started keeping an online diary on DiaryLand, which several years later morphed into my first WordPress blog.

In the summer of 2003, I attended the International Computer Camp for blind students in Switzerland. I had attended it the year before, when it was held in England, too. This year, I felt a bit disappointed in the end, because it didn’t provide me with the cathartic experience I’d felt the year before.

In 2003, I also explored fictional storytelling as a way of expressing myself. I was experiencing some significant selective mutism at the time, which I could circumvent by pretending I wasn’t talking about myself. This is how my “mirror image”, Kirsten, came to be. She is one of my main alters to this day.

Finally, this was the year I was first starting to explore future planning. Here in the Netherlands, students with disabilities attending mainstream education didn’t get any type of special transition planning at the time. I was expected to just get by and go to university straight out of high school in 2005. In 2003, I started to doubt this would be a success, but I didn’t voice my doubts yet. As it is, I didn’t actually make it clear that I wasn’t going to university right out of high school until April of 2005.

Where were you on the path of life in 2003?

Flash Fiction: The Invite

“I got invited,” Jack said.
“To what?” Amanda asked.
“To Clearview’s reunion. Rick invited me.”
“Okay,” Amanda said. “So are you going?”
“Of course!” Jack shouted.

Clearview Prep was Jack’s high school. It was the most prestigious high school in the city he grew up in. The city wasn’t large, but still, you were almost guaranteed access to top colleges in the state if you graduated from there.

“I thought you weren’t all that excited about school?” Amanda countered.
“I am now. I have a business. I have you. We have a baby on the way. Gotta show my peers that I’m at least as successful as they are.”

Amanda wasn’t sure what to think of it. Even though she was Jack’s wife and supposedly his biggest supporter, deep down she had her reservations. Not about loving him, but he could be a little arrogant. She liked him for it, but she wasn’t so sure his high school peers would. And then there was the other thing.

“What will you say about those fifteen months you…”
“Don’t talk about that,” Jack cut her short. “That’s in the past.”
“So is Clearview Prep,” Amanda said.

Jack knew. He knew that, if he were to revisit that bit of his past, he’d have to revisit the rest. Rick knew, but apart from him, no-one in his class knew why he’d left Clearview just a few months before graduation.


This piece of flash fiction was inspired by Sandman’s Writing Challenge #5.